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Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

204                   MODERN  GERMAN  LITERATURE

this 'discretion' in his use of the name of God. He had used it, he
says, when Russia revealed to him the darkness and the brotherli-
ness of God. In the Russian ecstasy the 'properties' of God had
rushed into a multitude of images: now there is no image which
will speak Him: God rises from the breathing heart and covers
the skies and falls down as rain. Christianity has familiarized us
with God; but as Christianity fades what looms in our conscious-
ness is the primitive God (der uralte Gotf) of the Old Testament.
If the Duino Elegies mark a progression from spiritual fear to
reasoned appeasement the Sonette an Orpheus (1922), which have
the baffling obscurity of the ILkgies but not always their flight from
musicality, show this appeasement transfigured. There is at least
the illusion of a new theme: the reduction of all existence to the
plain principle of rhythm: all that is - the face of the earth with
mountains and valleys, man and woman with the phases of sex,
rise and fall of all movement, arsis and thesis, Hebung und Senkung>
thrust and recoil, joy and sorrow - all that is, physical and spiritual,
arises from the juxtaposition and alternation of these mathematical
contraries. Life and death themselves form a dual realm (Doppel-
bereich\ just as do the shadowing wooded hill and its reflection in
the lake (I, IX). Music then, or rhythm, is the secret of existence;
and behind music and rhythm is the Musician or Poet - the Divine
Will. The general sense is tangible in the i8th sonnet of Part II:
Tan^erm: o du Verlegung \ alles Vergehens in Gang . . . The dancer is
used as a symbol of motion; and motion in the shaper's hand be-
comes pitcher or vase (moment fige *= plastic art, and in Rilke's con-
ception poem too). And rhythm is the principle, not merely of all
creation, whether of life or art, but also of death: for motion must
fade into rest. The intrusion of music as a symbol into Rilke's
limited fund of tense ideas is explained by the awakening of his
musical sense during his residence at Duino by his association
with the concert pianist Magda von Hattingberg-Riechling;
hitherto he had shunned and rejected music; now the greatness of
Beethoven dawned upon him. Apart from the Sonnets to Orpheus,
however - and even here the laboured exploitation of music as a
symbol proves no real sense of music - Rilke is yet another poet
whose verbal music is superb and who is dead to music.

The rest of Rilke's work, full of interest as it is, is subsidiary.
Das Marimkben (1913) takes its title from those medieval series of
pictures which represent the life of the Virgin. Joseph's question-